Kinney hits the road with Wimpy Kid event series ahead of Disney+ adaptation

Kinney hits the road with Wimpy Kid event series ahead of Disney+ adaptation

Jeff Kinney  entertained 270 families at a recent outdoor event in the UK organised by Penguin Random House to celebrate the release of his latest book, Big Shot: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Puffin). 

Big Shot is all about sports and Big Shot Drive-Thru, which took place last week (17th November) in Wolverhampton, enabled families to take part in experiences based on the book, including shooting basketballs into nets. At the end they received a signed copy of the book from Kinney. 

“We have done these outdoor events in the US and Germany. It’s a lot of fun,” Kinney told The Bookseller. “It’s Covid-safe and something physical for kids to do. Anything can happen. The first time we did it in the US there was a dangerous windstorm and all our stuff was blown over; in Germany we had an experience with pyrotechnics but it started to rain! Nobody could have foreseen it.” 

The author also participated in a hybrid event at Wolverhampton Grammar School that was broadcast to schools across the country. Penguin Random House estimated the event reached more than 800 schools and around 60,000 students. 

Big Shot: Diary of a Wimpy Kid was published at the end of October. The new book shows Greg unexpectedly landing a place on the school’s worst basketball team. Kinney had wanted to write a book about sports for a long time but “couldn’t find a way in. It was only when I imagined doing a front cover with every ball on it that something clicked and the story fell into place,” he said. 

Greg tries out for the basketball team because his mother wants him to, but he is convinced he will fail. Unluckily for him, he makes it onto a team and then has a terrible season. “Doing sports is such a rite of passage for every kid in the world and I wanted to write about the kid who sits at the end of the bench but doesn’t get in,” said the author. “I was an average kid, so that gave me a good breadth of experience. I was better at some things but really miserable at others. I was a terrible swimmer but once a season they sent us to a development tournament. It was just to make the bad kids feel good about themselves. I didn’t realise until I was grown up.”

Kinney is also preparing for the launch of Wimpy Kid on Disney+, with the first animated film, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, hitting screens early next month. A second film, “Roderick Rules”, is slated for 2022.

For Kinney, who wrote the screenplay, a screen adaptation has been a long time coming. He started working on a movie adaptation seven years ago. “We were going to do a prime-time special for network TV but the landscape changed and changed, and eventually streaming services started to turn up.”

It’s a “lot of fun” writing screenplays, he said, because you can write at the speed of thought. “The first show aligns with the first book. We wanted to tell a story about friendship that would resonate across the generations.”

Wimpy Kid is one of the most successful children’s books series going today, with sales through Nielsen UK alone reaching 14.7 million copies, for £82m. Big Shot is the 16th book in the series and Kinney thinks there will be 20 in total (“it’s a nice round number”). Plus, the Disney deal will keep him busy for some time yet. “I think our future is set in an exciting way because of Disney+. We are going strong with the books but Disney is going to introduce these books to younger kids and more kids all over the world.”

The 16th title in Jeff Kinney’s bestselling Wimpy Kid series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Big Shot was published in the UK by Puffin on 26th October (hardback, £12.99, 0241396650).